NHL Rumors: Kovalchuk, Gretzky, Puljujarvi, Maple Leafs, More

In today’s NHL rumor rundown, is Ilya Kovalchuk about to be traded out of Los Angeles? Might Wayne Gretzky be considering a return to coaching? How will the Toronto Maple Leafs insert Zach Hyman into the lineup and is there a betting favorite to take over for Don Cherry on Coach’s Corner?

Kovalchuk Pulled From Kings Lineup

Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet is reporting that the Los Angeles Kings have informed veteran forward Ilya Kovalchuk that he will not be in the lineup “for the foreseeable future.” And with that news, comes all sorts of speculation he’ll be traded.

Los Angeles Kings left wing Ilya Kovalchuk
Los Angeles Kings left wing Ilya Kovalchuk (Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports)

Friedman is not the one speculating a trade here and adds that Kovalchuk is permitted to practice with the team, but when players are pulled from the lineup, it’s traditionally to avoid injury so they can be moved in a deal.

In response to Friedman’s report, TSN’s Pierre LeBrun tweeted:

A reminder as reported before that Kovalchuk’s final signing bonus money is payable Dec. 15 after which he’s only collecting on his $700k salary for the rest of the season. He does, however, have a $4.25 M salary on the books for next season… if he’s still in the NHL.

Part of being pulled may have to do with Kovalchuk’s full no-movement clause which includes the Kings not being able to send him to the minor leagues. This could all be a move to encourage Kovalchuk to either waive his no-move or no-trade clause in certain situations or encourage him to help the Kings find a trade partner.

If Kovalchuk were to retire, it doesn’t help the Kings who would be on the hook for his full $6.25 million cap hit because his contract was signed after his 35th birthday.

Related: Wayne Gretzky Almost Joined the Detroit Red Wings

Gretzky to Go Back Behind Bench?

LeBrun has also reported, as per an article in The Athletic, that Sean Burke has asked Wayne Gretzky about coaching Canada’s entry in the Spengler Cup, Dec. 26-31 in Davos, Switzerland. Initial response from Gretzky is that he needs time to think about it.

Edmonton Oilers draft Philip Broberg Wayne Gretzky
Edmonton Oilers draftee Philip Broberg poses for a photo with Wayne Gretzky (Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports)

One of the best players to ever wear a pair of skates, Gretzky was not the most successful coach. That doesn’t seem to matter to Burke, who is Canada’s GM for the Spengler Cup squad and feels he’d be a good fit.

As LeBrun writes:

“It was a nice surprise when Sean called,” Gretzky told me Tuesday. “I thanked him. I was excited about it. Team Canada is pretty special. I think the Spengler Cup is the oldest tournament that we know of. It’s a pretty nice honour. I told him I needed some time (to sort things out). The only problem for me is that it’s over Christmastime. It’s a tough decision to make.

source – ‘LeBrun Notebook: Wayne Gretzky considering Spengler Cup coaching opportunity’ – Pierre LeBrun – The Athletic – 11/12/2019

Should Gretzky take the gig, it will be interesting to see how players develop under a coach that had a reputation for inadvertently requiring his players reshape the way they worked with a coach. After all, Gretzky wasn’t your typical player’s coach. He could simply do everything he was asking and expecting from his players, and probably better.

Related: The NHL’s Most Unbreakable Records

Zach Hyman In Lineup Tomorrow

The Toronto Maple Leafs are expected to get Zach Hyman back in the lineup against the New York Islanders after a lengthy absence due to injury. Speculation is that Hyman will start on a line with John Tavares and Kasperi Kapanen.

Toronto Maple Leafs Zach Hyman
Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Zach Hyman (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)

With Mitch Marner out thanks to a high-ankle sprain, Hyman is going to get prime minutes immediately upon his return. The Maple Leafs are going to have to hope Hyman has quick chemistry on that line because high-ankle sprains have a reputation for causing issues that last longer than expected.

Related: NHL Rumors: Oilers, Maple Leafs, Rangers, Stars, More

Teams Upset By Puljujarvi Decision

While the Edmonton Oilers are not bothered by Jesse Puljujarvi’s decision to stay in Finland for the remainder of the season, at least one NHL team is. During TSN’s latest Insider Trading segment, Darren Dreger claims one team would like Puljujarvi to return to the NHL to evaluate him on the smaller ice surface.

That team is apparently interested in Puljujarvi but is worried the large ice surface is titling his production because he’s playing so east-to-west and that won’t work in the NHL.

Odds Are on Burke

I received a press email from leading sportsbook Bodog who has the odds up on who will take Don Cherry’s seat on Coach’s Corner. Who do you think takes the job, assuming Sportsnet even continues with the segment.

Here are the choices:

Brian Burke +125
Elliotte Friedman +175
Colby Armstrong +650
Craig Simpson +650
Kelly Hrudey +650
Chris Johnston +900

Related: Oilers News and Rumors: Puljujarvi, Smith, Larsson, More